Pleats: not just for Vectra-driving carpet salesmen

 

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I am a pleated trousers kind of guy. I do like a bit of motion-fuelled air conditioning down below. The last few years of high crotch, tightly tailored trousers have been a war of attrition for me, despite my initial excitement at the silhouette’s promise of endorphin overload and dapper insouciance.

Coming from 15 years of daily jean wearing (was there anything else for a twenty something male in the 90’s?) the idea of anything other than Japanese denim had a feeling of taboo and hitherto unexplored territory about it. When I rebelled against denim it wasn’t so much disinterest as absolute excommunication. I had a sudden realisation that everyone, irrespective of culture, race or age was starting to look the same. It was like I was starring in my own baggy-jeaned Orwellian nightmare. Accountants dressed as giant babies and vice versa; it was becoming a depressing and awkwardly comical situation. If approached on the street you didn’t know if you were about to be robbed or drafted by the Jesuits.

To be honest, my journey into ‘slim fit’ started with jeans: I had two pairs of Dior selvage jeans that were the objects of much hilarity for my friends in 2005 (my wife actually wears them now, with far more savoir faire than I could ever muster). From this unsteady sartorial adolescence soon began the slide (or squeeze) into a pair of Jil Sander trousers, trousers that made me dress to the left whether I liked it or not. Then there were the Dries Van Noten pants that seemed to make me limp slightly. It was a time when I believed there was a nobility in suffering to look good, akin to the way women suffer physically with high heels and metaphysically with wedding hats.

It was years before I discovered the pleat. It was always something I associated with the kind of 55 year old men you regularly see on the tube: the men who have given up, succeeded to a life of crisps, horrific square-toed shoes and alimony. Then again, try telling that to Rei Kawakubo. Comme Des Garçons have made voluminous pleated trousers a longterm staple of their Homme Plus range and for good reason. Not only are they supremely comfortable, but they drape magnificently. She nearly always uses the perfect weight of gabardine, causing the trousers to shift and float, in turn giving the wearer an almost balletic elegance.

The Japanese in general have a thing with pleats: Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto are both known for their baggy, pleated aesthetic and now the Europeans are in on the act. Balenciaga, Dries Van Noten (finally) and Maison Martin Margiela (with limited success) all free the crown jewels. Realistically, these houses are probably jumping in for trend relevance rather than a philosophy of true comfort. You see that’s where I’ve arrived sartorially- the place where comfort is king. I am the personification of Japanese deconstruction. I billow down the street like an extra in an antipodean TV remake of ‘The Seven Samurai’, worrying about what the hell I’m going to wear if I ever have to get a real job. What would I wear? I have one Jil Sander navy suit that I got married in, and the rest of my wardrobe is left-field Yohji, CDG, Margiela, Damir Doma and Dries Van Noten; not exactly corporate clobber or sufficiently absorbent of spitting burger grease.

In the end pleats are freedom and movement. They’re only good if the fabric’s the right weight and quality, and if the cut’s razor sharp. You have to invest- Topshop will never deliver the true dyed in the wool Yohji, Issey or Comme experience. And I for one, however snobbishly, rather like that fact.


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